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A common sentiment is brewing online; a shared desire for the internet that might have been. After decades of corporate encroachment, you don't need to be a power user to realize that something has gone very wrong. In the early days of the internet, the future was bright. In that future, when you sent an instant message, it traveled directly to the recipient. When you needed to pay a friend, you announced a transfer of value to their public key. When an app was missing a feature you wanted, you opened up the source code and implemented it. When you took a picture on your phone, it was immediately encrypted and backed up to storage that you controlled. In that future, people would laugh at the idea of having to authenticate themselves to some corporation before doing these things. What did we get instead? Rather than a network of human-sized communities, we have a handful of enormous commons, each controlled by a faceless corporate entity. Hey user, want to send a message? You can, but we'll store a copy of it indefinitely, unencrypted, for our preference-learning algorithms to pore over; how else could we slap targeted ads on every piece of content you see? Want to pay a friend? You can—in our Monopoly money. Want a new feature? Submit a request to our Support Center and we'll totally maybe think about it. Want to backup a photo? You can—inside our walled garden, which only we (and the NSA, of course) can access. Just be careful what you share, because merely locking you out of your account and deleting all your data is far from the worst thing we could do. You rationalize this: "MEGACORP would never do such a thing; it would be bad for business." But we all know, at some level, that this state of affairs, this inversion of power, is not merely "unfortunate" or "suboptimal" – No. It is degrading. Even if MEGACORP were purely benevolent, it is degrading that we must ask its permission to talk to our friends; that we must rely on it to safeguard our treasured memories; that our digital lives are completely beholden to those who seek only to extract value from us. At the root of this issue is the centralization of data. MEGACORP can surveil you—because your emails and video chats flow through their servers. And MEGACORP can control you—because they hold your data hostage. But centralization is a solution to a technical problem: How can we make the user's data accessible from anywhere in the world, on any device? For a long time, no alternative solution to this problem was forthcoming. Today, thanks to a confluence of established techniques and recent innovations, we have solved the accessibility problem without resorting to centralization. Hashing, encryption, and erasure encoding got us most of the way, but one barrier remained: incentives. How do you incentivize an anonymous stranger to store your data? Earlier protocols like BitTorrent worked around this limitation by relying on altruism, tit-for-tat requirements, or "points" – in other words, nothing you could pay your electric bill with. Finally, in 2009, a solution appeared: Bitcoin. Not long after, Sia was born. Cryptography has unleashed the latent power of the internet by enabling interactions between mutually-distrustful parties. Sia harnesses this power to turn the cloud storage market into a proper marketplace, where buyers and sellers can transact directly, with no intermediaries, anywhere in the world. No more silos or walled gardens: your data is encrypted, so it can't be spied on, and it's stored on many servers, so no single entity can hold it hostage. Thanks to projects like Sia, the internet is being re-decentralized. Sia began its life as a startup, which means it has always been subjected to two competing forces: the ideals of its founders, and the profit motive inherent to all businesses. Its founders have taken great pains to never compromise on the former, but this often threatened the company's financial viability. With the establishment of the Sia Foundation, this tension is resolved. The Foundation, freed of the obligation to generate profit, is a pure embodiment of the ideals from which Sia originally sprung. The goals and responsibilities of the Foundation are numerous: to maintain core Sia protocols and consensus code; to support developers building on top of Sia and its protocols; to promote Sia and facilitate partnerships in other spheres and communities; to ensure that users can easily acquire and safely store siacoins; to develop network scalability solutions; to implement hardforks and lead the community through them; and much more. In a broader sense, its mission is to commoditize data storage, making it cheap, ubiquitous, and accessible to all, without compromising privacy or performance. Sia is a perfect example of how we can achieve better living through cryptography. We now begin a new chapter in Sia's history. May our stewardship lead it into a bright future.
Today, we are proposing the creation of the Sia Foundation: a new non-profit entity that builds and supports distributed cloud storage infrastructure, with a specific focus on the Sia storage platform. What follows is an informal overview of the Sia Foundation, covering two major topics: how the Foundation will be funded, and what its funds will be used for.
The Sia Foundation will be structured as a non-profit entity incorporated in the United States, likely a 501(c)(3) organization or similar. The actions of the Foundation will be constrained by its charter, which formalizes the specific obligations and overall mission outlined in this document. The charter will be updated on an annual basis to reflect the current goals of the Sia community. The organization will be operated by a board of directors, initially comprising Luke Champine as President and Eddie Wang as Chairman. Luke Champine will be leaving his position at Nebulous to work at the Foundation full-time, and will seek to divest his shares of Nebulous stock along with other potential conflicts of interest. Neither Luke nor Eddie personally own any siafunds or significant quantities of siacoin.
The primary source of funding for the Foundation will come from a new block subsidy. Following a hardfork, 30 KS per block will be allocated to the "Foundation Fund," continuing in perpetuity. The existing 30 KS per block miner reward is not affected. Additionally, one year's worth of block subsidies (approximately 1.57 GS) will be allocated to the Fund immediately upon activation of the hardfork. As detailed below, the Foundation will provably burn any coins that it cannot meaningfully spend. As such, the 30 KS subsidy should be viewed as a maximum. This allows the Foundation to grow alongside Sia without requiring additional hardforks. The Foundation will not be funded to any degree by the possession or sale of siafunds. Siafunds were originally introduced as a means of incentivizing growth, and we still believe in their effectiveness: a siafund holder wants to increase the amount of storage on Sia as much as possible. While the Foundation obviously wants Sia to succeed, its driving force should be its charter. Deriving significant revenue from siafunds would jeopardize the Foundation's impartiality and focus. Ultimately, we want the Foundation to act in the best interests of Sia, not in growing its own budget.
The Foundation inherits a great number of responsibilities from Nebulous. Each quarter, the Foundation will publish the progress it has made over the past quarter, and list the responsibilities it intends to prioritize over the coming quarter. This will be accompanied by a financial report, detailing each area of expenditure over the past quarter, and forecasting expenditures for the coming quarter. Below, we summarize some of the myriad responsibilities towards which the Foundation is expected to allocate its resources.
Maintain and enhance core Sia software
Arguably, this is the most important responsibility of the Foundation. At the heart of Sia is its consensus algorithm: regardless of other differences, all Sia software must agree upon the content and rules of the blockchain. It is therefore crucial that the algorithm be stewarded by an entity that is accountable to the community, transparent in its decision-making, and has no profit motive or other conflicts of interest. Accordingly, Sia’s consensus functionality will no longer be directly maintained by Nebulous. Instead, the Foundation will release and maintain an implementation of a "minimal Sia full node," comprising the Sia consensus algorithm and P2P networking code. The source code will be available in a public repository, and signed binaries will be published for each release. Other parties may use this code to provide alternative full node software. For example, Nebulous may extend the minimal full node with wallet, renter, and host functionality. The source code of any such implementation may be submitted to the Foundation for review. If the code passes review, the Foundation will provide "endorsement signatures" for the commit hash used and for binaries compiled internally by the Foundation. Specifically, these signatures assert that the Foundation believes the software contains no consensus-breaking changes or other modifications to imported Foundation code. Endorsement signatures and Foundation-compiled binaries may be displayed and distributed by the receiving party, along with an appropriate disclaimer. A minimal full node is not terribly useful on its own; the wallet, renter, host, and other extensions are what make Sia a proper developer platform. Currently, the only implementations of these extensions are maintained by Nebulous. The Foundation will contract Nebulous to ensure that these extensions continue to receive updates and enhancements. Later on, the Foundation intends to develop its own implementations of these extensions and others. As with the minimal node software, these extensions will be open source and available in public repositories for use by any Sia node software. With the consensus code now managed by the Foundation, the task of implementing and orchestrating hardforks becomes its responsibility as well. When the Foundation determines that a hardfork is necessary (whether through internal discussion or via community petition), a formal proposal will be drafted and submitted for public review, during which arguments for and against the proposal may be submitted to a public repository. During this time, the hardfork code will be implemented, either by Foundation employees or by external contributors working closely with the Foundation. Once the implementation is finished, final arguments will be heard. The Foundation board will then vote whether to accept or reject the proposal, and announce their decision along with appropriate justification. Assuming the proposal was accepted, the Foundation will announce the block height at which the hardfork will activate, and will subsequently release source code and signed binaries that incorporate the hardfork code. Regardless of the Foundation's decision, it is the community that ultimately determines whether a fork is accepted or rejected – nothing can change that. Foundation node software will never automatically update, so all forks must be explicitly adopted by users. Furthermore, the Foundation will provide replay and wipeout protection for its hard forks, protecting other chains from unintended or malicious reorgs. Similarly, the Foundation will ensure that any file contracts formed prior to a fork activation will continue to be honored on both chains until they expire. Finally, the Foundation also intends to pursue scalability solutions for the Sia blockchain. In particular, work has already begun on an implementation of Utreexo, which will greatly reduce the space requirements of fully-validating nodes (allowing a full node to be run on a smartphone) while increasing throughput and decreasing initial sync time. A hardfork implementing Utreexo will be submitted to the community as per the process detailed above. As this is the most important responsibility of the Foundation, it will receive a significant portion of the Foundation’s budget, primarily in the form of developer salaries and contracting agreements.
Support community services
We intend to allocate 25% of the Foundation Fund towards the community. This allocation will be held and disbursed in the form of siacoins, and will pay for grants, bounties, hackathons, and other community-driven endeavours. Any community-run service, such as a Skynet portal, explorer or web wallet, may apply to have its costs covered by the Foundation. Upon approval, the Foundation will reimburse expenses incurred by the service, subject to the exact terms agreed to. The intent of these grants is not to provide a source of income, but rather to make such services "break even" for their operators, so that members of the community can enrich the Sia ecosystem without worrying about the impact on their own finances.
Ensure easy acquisition and storage of siacoins
Most users will acquire their siacoins via an exchange. The Foundation will provide support to Sia-compatible exchanges, and pursue relevant integrations at its discretion, such as Coinbase's new Rosetta standard. The Foundation may also release DEX software that enables trading cryptocurrencies without the need for a third party. (The Foundation itself will never operate as a money transmitter.) Increasingly, users are storing their cryptocurrency on hardware wallets. The Foundation will maintain the existing Ledger Nano S integration, and pursue further integrations at its discretion. Of course, all hardware wallets must be paired with software running on a computer or smartphone, so the Foundation will also develop and/or maintain client-side wallet software, including both full-node wallets and "lite" wallets. Community-operated wallet services, i.e. web wallets, may be funded via grants. Like core software maintenance, this responsibility will be funded in the form of developer salaries and contracting agreements.
Protect the ecosystem
When it comes to cryptocurrency security, patching software vulnerabilities is table stakes; there are significant legal and social threats that we must be mindful of as well. As such, the Foundation will earmark a portion of its fund to defend the community from legal action. The Foundation will also safeguard the network from 51% attacks and other threats to network security by implementing softforks and/or hardforks where necessary. The Foundation also intends to assist in the development of a new FOSS software license, and to solicit legal memos on various Sia-related matters, such as hosting in the United States and the EU. In a broader sense, the establishment of the Foundation makes the ecosystem more robust by transferring core development to a more neutral entity. Thanks to its funding structure, the Foundation will be immune to various forms of pressure that for-profit companies are susceptible to.
Drive adoption of Sia
Although the overriding goal of the Foundation is to make Sia the best platform it can be, all that work will be in vain if no one uses the platform. There are a number of ways the Foundation can promote Sia and get it into the hands of potential users and developers. In-person conferences are understandably far less popular now, but the Foundation can sponsor and/or participate in virtual conferences. (In-person conferences may be held in the future, permitting circumstances.) Similarly, the Foundation will provide prizes for hackathons, which may be organized by community members, Nebulous, or the Foundation itself. Lastly, partnerships with other companies in the cryptocurrency space—or the cloud storage space—are a great way to increase awareness of Sia. To handle these responsibilities, one of the early priorities of the Foundation will be to hire a marketing director.
The Foundation Fund will be controlled by a multisig address. Each member of the Foundation's board will control one of the signing keys, with the signature threshold to be determined once the final composition of the board is known. (This threshold may also be increased or decreased if the number of board members changes.) Additionally, one timelocked signing key will be controlled by David Vorick. This key will act as a “dead man’s switch,” to be used in the event of an emergency that prevents Foundation board members from reaching the signature threshold. The timelock ensures that this key cannot be used unless the Foundation fails to sign a transaction for several months. On the 1st of each month, the Foundation will use its keys to transfer all siacoins in the Fund to two new addresses. The first address will be controlled by a high-security hot wallet, and will receive approximately one month's worth of Foundation expenditures. The second address, receiving the remaining siacoins, will be a modified version of the source address: specifically, it will increase the timelock on David Vorick's signing key by one month. Any other changes to the set of signing keys, such as the arrival or departure of board members, will be incorporated into this address as well. The Foundation Fund is allocated in SC, but many of the Foundation's expenditures must be paid in USD or other fiat currency. Accordingly, the Foundation will convert, at its discretion, a portion of its monthly withdrawals to fiat currency. We expect this conversion to be primarily facilitated by private "OTC" sales to accredited investors. The Foundation currently has no plans to speculate in cryptocurrency or other assets. Finally, it is important that the Foundation adds value to the Sia platform well in excess of the inflation introduced by the block subsidy. For this reason, the Foundation intends to provably burn, on a quarterly basis, any coins that it cannot allocate towards any justifiable expense. In other words, coins will be burned whenever doing so provides greater value to the platform than any other use. Furthermore, the Foundation will cap its SC treasury at 5% of the total supply, and will cap its USD treasury at 4 years’ worth of predicted expenses. Addendum: Hardfork Timeline We would like to see this proposal finalized and accepted by the community no later than September 30th. A new version of siad, implementing the hardfork, will be released no later than October 15th. The hardfork will activate at block 293220, which is expected to occur around 12pm EST on January 1st, 2021.
Addendum: Inflation specifics The total supply of siacoins as of January 1st, 2021 will be approximately 45.243 GS. The initial subsidy of 1.57 GS thus increases the supply by 3.47%, and the total annual inflation in 2021 will be at most 10.4% (if zero coins are burned). In 2022, total annual inflation will be at most 6.28%, and will steadily decrease in subsequent years.
We see the establishment of the Foundation as an important step in the maturation of the Sia project. It provides the ecosystem with a sustainable source of funding that can be exclusively directed towards achieving Sia's ambitious goals. Compared to other projects with far deeper pockets, Sia has always punched above its weight; once we're on equal footing, there's no telling what we'll be able to achieve. Nevertheless, we do not propose this change lightly, and have taken pains to ensure that the Foundation will act in accordance with the ideals that this community shares. It will operate transparently, keep inflation to a minimum, and respect the user's fundamental role in decentralized systems. We hope that everyone in the community will consider this proposal carefully, and look forward to a productive discussion.
Dragonchain Great Reddit Scaling Bake-Off Public Proposal
Dragonchain Public Proposal TL;DR:
Dragonchain has demonstrated twice Reddit’s entire total daily volume (votes, comments, and postsper Reddit 2019 Year in Review) in a 24-hour demo on an operational network. Every single transaction on Dragonchain is decentralized immediately through 5 levels of Dragon Net, and then secured with combined proof on Bitcoin, Ethereum, Ethereum Classic, and Binance Chain, via Interchain. At the time, in January 2020, the entire cost of the demo was approximately $25K on a single system (transaction fees locked at $0.0001/txn). With current fees (lowest fee $0.0000025/txn), this would cost as little as $625. Watch Joe walk through the entire proposal and answer questions onYouTube. This proposal is also available on the Dragonchain blog.
Hello Reddit and Ethereum community!
I’m Joe Roets, Founder & CEO of Dragonchain. When the team and I first heard about The Great Reddit Scaling Bake-Off we were intrigued. We believe we have the solutions Reddit seeks for its community points system and we have them at scale. For your consideration, we have submitted our proposal below. The team at Dragonchain and I welcome and look forward to your technical questions, philosophical feedback, and fair criticism, to build a scaling solution for Reddit that will empower its users. Because our architecture is unlike other blockchain platforms out there today, we expect to receive many questions while people try to grasp our project. I will answer all questions here in this thread on Reddit, and I've answered some questions in the stream on YouTube. We have seen good discussions so far in the competition. We hope that Reddit’s scaling solution will emerge from The Great Reddit Scaling Bake-Off and that Reddit will have great success with the implementation.
Dragonchain is a robust open source hybrid blockchain platform that has proven to withstand the passing of time since our inception in 2014. We have continued to evolve to harness the scalability of private nodes, yet take full advantage of the security of public decentralized networks, like Ethereum. We have a live, operational, and fully functional Interchain network integrating Bitcoin, Ethereum, Ethereum Classic, and ~700 independent Dragonchain nodes. Every transaction is secured to Ethereum, Bitcoin, and Ethereum Classic. Transactions are immediately usable on chain, and the first decentralization is seen within 20 seconds on Dragon Net. Security increases further to public networks ETH, BTC, and ETC within 10 minutes to 2 hours. Smart contracts can be written in any executable language, offering full freedom to existing developers. We invite any developer to watch the demo, play with our SDK’s, review open source code, and to help us move forward. Dragonchain specializes in scalable loyalty & rewards solutions and has built a decentralized social network on chain, with very affordable transaction costs. This experience can be combined with the insights Reddit and the Ethereum community have gained in the past couple of months to roll out the solution at a rapid pace.
Response and PoC
In The Great Reddit Scaling Bake-Off post, Reddit has asked for a series of demonstrations, requirements, and other considerations. In this section, we will attempt to answer all of these requests.
A live proof of concept showing hundreds of thousands of transactions
On Jan 7, 2020, Dragonchain hosted a 24-hour live demonstration during which a quarter of a billion (250 million+) transactions executed fully on an operational network. Every single transaction on Dragonchain is decentralized immediately through 5 levels of Dragon Net, and then secured with combined proof on Bitcoin, Ethereum, Ethereum Classic, and Binance Chain, via Interchain. This means that every single transaction is secured by, and traceable to these networks. An attack on this system would require a simultaneous attack on all of the Interchained networks. 24 hours in 4 minutes (YouTube): 24 hours in 4 minutes The demonstration was of a single business system, and any user is able to scale this further, by running multiple systems simultaneously. Our goals for the event were to demonstrate a consistent capacity greater than that of Visa over an extended time period. Tooling to reproduce our demo is available here: https://github.com/dragonchain/spirit-bomb
Source code (for on & off-chain components as well tooling used for the PoC). The source code does not have to be shared publicly, but if Reddit decides to use a particular solution it will need to be shared with Reddit at some point.
Dragonchain’s architecture attacks the scalability issue from multiple angles. Dragonchain is a hybrid blockchain platform, wherein every transaction is protected on a business node to the requirements of that business or purpose. A business node may be held completely private or may be exposed or replicated to any level of exposure desired. Every node has its own blockchain and is independently scalable. Dragonchain established Context Based Verification as its consensus model. Every transaction is immediately usable on a trust basis, and in time is provable to an increasing level of decentralized consensus. A transaction will have a level of decentralization to independently owned and deployed Dragonchain nodes (~700 nodes) within seconds, and full decentralization to BTC and ETH within minutes or hours. Level 5 nodes (Interchain nodes) function to secure all transactions to public or otherwise external chains such as Bitcoin and Ethereum. These nodes scale the system by aggregating multiple blocks into a single Interchain transaction on a cadence. This timing is configurable based upon average fees for each respective chain. For detailed information about Dragonchain’s architecture, and Context Based Verification, please refer to the Dragonchain Architecture Document.
An interesting feature of Dragonchain’s network consensus is its economics and scarcity model. Since Dragon Net nodes (L2-L4) are independent staking nodes, deployment to cloud platforms would allow any of these nodes to scale to take on a large percentage of the verification work. This is great for scalability, but not good for the economy, because there is no scarcity, and pricing would develop a downward spiral and result in fewer verification nodes. For this reason, Dragonchain uses TIME as scarcity. TIME is calculated as the number of Dragons held, multiplied by the number of days held. TIME influences the user’s access to features within the Dragonchain ecosystem. It takes into account both the Dragon balance and length of time each Dragon is held. TIME is staked by users against every verification node and dictates how much of the transaction fees are awarded to each participating node for every block. TIME also dictates the transaction fee itself for the business node. TIME is staked against a business node to set a deterministic transaction fee level (see transaction fee table below in Cost section). This is very interesting in a discussion about scaling because it guarantees independence for business implementation. No matter how much traffic appears on the entire network, a business is guaranteed to not see an increased transaction fee rate.
Dragonchain uses Docker and Kubernetes to allow the use of best practices traditional system scaling. Dragonchain offers managed nodes with an easy to use web based console interface. The user may also deploy a Dragonchain node within their own datacenter or favorite cloud platform. Users have deployed Dragonchain nodes on-prem on Amazon AWS, Google Cloud, MS Azure, and other hosting platforms around the world. Any executable code, anything you can write, can be written into a smart contract. This flexibility is what allows us to say that developers with no blockchain experience can use any code language to access the benefits of blockchain. Customers have used NodeJS, Python, Java, and even BASH shell script to write smart contracts on Dragonchain. With Docker containers, we achieve better separation of concerns, faster deployment, higher reliability, and lower response times. We chose Kubernetes for its self-healing features, ability to run multiple services on one server, and its large and thriving development community. It is resilient, scalable, and automated. OpenFaaS allows us to package smart contracts as Docker images for easy deployment. Contract deployment time is now bounded only by the size of the Docker image being deployed but remains fast even for reasonably large images. We also take advantage of Docker’s flexibility and its ability to support any language that can run on x86 architecture. Any image, public or private, can be run as a smart contract using Dragonchain.
Flexibility in Scaling
Dragonchain’s architecture considers interoperability and integration as key features. From inception, we had a goal to increase adoption via integration with real business use cases and traditional systems. We envision the ability for Reddit, in the future, to be able to integrate alternate content storage platforms or other financial services along with the token.
LBRY - To allow users to deploy content natively to LBRY
MakerDAO to allow users to lend small amounts backed by their Reddit community points.
STORJ/SIA to allow decentralized on chain storage of portions of content. These integrations or any other are relatively easy to integrate on Dragonchain with an Interchain implementation.
Cost estimates (on-chain and off-chain) For the purpose of this proposal, we assume that all transactions are on chain (posts, replies, and votes).
On the Dragonchain network, transaction costs are deterministic/predictable. By staking TIME on the business node (as described above) Reddit can reduce transaction costs to as low as $0.0000025 per transaction. Dragonchain Fees Table
How to run it
Building on Dragonchain is simple and requires no blockchain experience. Spin up a business node (L1) in our managed environment (AWS), run it in your own cloud environment, or on-prem in your own datacenter. Clear documentation will walk you through the steps of spinning up your first Dragonchain Level 1 Business node. Getting started is easy...
Download Dragonchain’s dctl
Input three commands into a terminal
Build an image
More information can be found in our Get started documents.
Dragonchain is an open source hybrid platform. Through Dragon Net, each chain combines the power of a public blockchain (like Ethereum) with the privacy of a private blockchain. Dragonchain organizes its network into five separate levels. A Level 1, or business node, is a totally private blockchain only accessible through the use of public/private keypairs. All business logic, including smart contracts, can be executed on this node directly and added to the chain. After creating a block, the Level 1 business node broadcasts a version stripped of sensitive private data to Dragon Net. Three Level 2 Validating nodes validate the transaction based on guidelines determined from the business. A Level 3 Diversity node checks that the level 2 nodes are from a diverse array of locations. A Level 4 Notary node, hosted by a KYC partner, then signs the validation record received from the Level 3 node. The transaction hash is ledgered to the Level 5 public chain to take advantage of the hash power of massive public networks. Dragon Net can be thought of as a “blockchain of blockchains”, where every level is a complete private blockchain. Because an L1 can send to multiple nodes on a single level, proof of existence is distributed among many places in the network. Eventually, proof of existence reaches level 5 and is published on a public network.
Dragonchain is open source and even though the platform is easy enough for developers to code in any language they are comfortable with, we do not have so large a developer community as Ethereum. We would like to see the Ethereum developer community (and any other communities) become familiar with our SDK’s, our solutions, and our platform, to unlock the full potential of our Ethereum Interchain. Long ago we decided to prioritize both Bitcoin and Ethereum Interchains. We envision an ecosystem that encompasses different projects to give developers the ability to take full advantage of all the opportunities blockchain offers to create decentralized solutions not only for Reddit but for all of our current platforms and systems. We believe that together we will take the adoption of blockchain further. We currently have additional Interchain with Ethereum Classic. We look forward to Interchain with other blockchains in the future. We invite all blockchains projects who believe in decentralization and security to Interchain with Dragonchain.
While we only have 700 nodes compared to 8,000 Ethereum and 10,000 Bitcoin nodes. We harness those 18,000 nodes to scale to extremely high levels of security. See Dragonchain metrics.
Some may consider the centralization of Dragonchain’s business nodes as an issue at first glance, however, the model is by design to protect business data. We do not consider this a drawback as these nodes can make any, none, or all data public. Depending upon the implementation, every subreddit could have control of its own business node, for potential business and enterprise offerings, bringing new alternative revenue streams to Reddit.
Costs and resources
Summary of cost & resource information for both on-chain & off-chain components used in the PoC, as well as cost & resource estimates for further scaling. If your PoC is not on mainnet, make note of any mainnet caveats (such as congestion issues).
Every transaction on the PoC system had a transaction fee of $0.0001 (one-hundredth of a cent USD). At 256MM transactions, the demo cost $25,600. With current operational fees, the same demonstration would cost $640 USD. For the demonstration, to achieve throughput to mimic a worldwide payments network, we modeled several clients in AWS and 4-5 business nodes to handle the traffic. The business nodes were tuned to handle higher throughput by adjusting memory and machine footprint on AWS. This flexibility is valuable to implementing a system such as envisioned by Reddit. Given that Reddit’s daily traffic (posts, replies, and votes) is less than half that of our demo, we would expect that the entire Reddit system could be handled on 2-5 business nodes using right-sized containers on AWS or similar environments. Verification was accomplished on the operational Dragon Net network with over 700 independently owned verification nodes running around the world at no cost to the business other than paid transaction fees.
This PoC should scale to the numbers below with minimal costs (both on & off-chain). There should also be a clear path to supporting hundreds of millions of users. Over a 5 day period, your scaling PoC should be able to handle: *100,000 point claims (minting & distributing points) *25,000 subscriptions *75,000 one-off points burning *100,000 transfers
During Dragonchain’s 24 hour demo, the above required numbers were reached within the first few minutes. Reddit’s total activity is 9000% more than Ethereum’s total transaction level. Even if you do not include votes, it is still 700% more than Ethereum’s current volume. Dragonchain has demonstrated that it can handle 250 million transactions a day, and it’s architecture allows for multiple systems to work at that level simultaneously. In our PoC, we demonstrate double the full capacity of Reddit, and every transaction was proven all the way to Bitcoin and Ethereum. Reddit Scaling on Ethereum
Solutions should not depend on any single third-party provider. We prefer solutions that do not depend on specific entities such as Reddit or another provider, and solutions with no single point of control or failure in off-chain components but recognize there are numerous trade-offs to consider
Dragonchain’s architecture calls for a hybrid approach. Private business nodes hold the sensitive data while the validation and verification of transactions for the business are decentralized within seconds and secured to public blockchains within 10 minutes to 2 hours. Nodes could potentially be controlled by owners of individual subreddits for more organic decentralization.
Billing is currently centralized - there is a path to federation and decentralization of a scaled billing solution.
Operational on-premises capabilities
Operational deployment to any datacenter
Over 700 independent Community Verification Nodes with proof of ownership
Operational Interchain (Interoperable to Bitcoin, Ethereum, and Ethereum Classic, open to more)
Usability Scaling solutions should have a simple end user experience.
Users shouldn't have to maintain any extra state/proofs, regularly monitor activity, keep track of extra keys, or sign anything other than their normal transactions
Dragonchain and its customers have demonstrated extraordinary usability as a feature in many applications, where users do not need to know that the system is backed by a live blockchain. Lyceum is one of these examples, where the progress of academy courses is being tracked, and successful completion of courses is rewarded with certificates on chain. Our @Save_The_Tweet bot is popular on Twitter. When used with one of the following hashtags - #please, #blockchain, #ThankYou, or #eternalize the tweet is saved through Eternal to multiple blockchains. A proof report is available for future reference. Other examples in use are DEN, our decentralized social media platform, and our console, where users can track their node rewards, view their TIME, and operate a business node. Examples:
Transactions complete in a reasonable amount of time (seconds or minutes, not hours or days)
All transactions are immediately usable on chain by the system. A transaction begins the path to decentralization at the conclusion of a 5-second block when it gets distributed across 5 separate community run nodes. Full decentralization occurs within 10 minutes to 2 hours depending on which interchain (Bitcoin, Ethereum, or Ethereum Classic) the transaction hits first. Within approximately 2 hours, the combined hash power of all interchained blockchains secures the transaction.
Free to use for end users (no gas fees, or fixed/minimal fees that Reddit can pay on their behalf)
With transaction pricing as low as $0.0000025 per transaction, it may be considered reasonable for Reddit to cover transaction fees for users. All of Reddit's Transactions on Blockchain (month) Community points can be earned by users and distributed directly to their Reddit account in batch (as per Reddit minting plan), and allow users to withdraw rewards to their Ethereum wallet whenever they wish. Withdrawal fees can be paid by either user or Reddit. This model has been operating inside the Dragonchain system since 2018, and many security and financial compliance features can be optionally added. We feel that this capability greatly enhances user experience because it is seamless to a regular user without cryptocurrency experience, yet flexible to a tech savvy user. With regard to currency or token transactions, these would occur on the Reddit network, verified to BTC and ETH. These transactions would incur the $0.0000025 transaction fee. To estimate this fee we use the monthly active Reddit users statista with a 60% adoption rate and an estimated 10 transactions per month average resulting in an approximate $720 cost across the system. Reddit could feasibly incur all associated internal network charges (mining/minting, transfer, burn) as these are very low and controllable fees. Reddit Internal Token Transaction Fees Reddit Ethereum Token Transaction Fees When we consider further the Ethereum fees that might be incurred, we have a few choices for a solution.
Offload all Ethereum transaction fees (user withdrawals) to interested users as they wish to withdraw tokens for external use or sale.
Cover Ethereum transaction fees by aggregating them on a timed schedule. Users would request withdrawal (from Reddit or individual subreddits), and they would be transacted on the Ethereum network every hour (or some other schedule).
In a combination of the above, customers could cover aggregated fees.
Integrate with alternate Ethereum roll up solutions or other proposals to aggregate minting and distribution transactions onto Ethereum.
Users should be able to view their balances & transactions via a blockchain explorer-style interface
From interfaces for users who have no knowledge of blockchain technology to users who are well versed in blockchain terms such as those present in a typical block explorer, a system powered by Dragonchain has flexibility on how to provide balances and transaction data to users. Transactions can be made viewable in an Eternal Proof Report, which displays raw data along with TIME staking information and traceability all the way to Bitcoin, Ethereum, and every other Interchained network. The report shows fields such as transaction ID, timestamp, block ID, multiple verifications, and Interchain proof. See example here. Node payouts within the Dragonchain console are listed in chronological order and can be further seen in either Dragons or USD. See example here. In our social media platform, Dragon Den, users can see, in real-time, their NRG and MTR balances. See example here. A new influencer app powered by Dragonchain, Raiinmaker, breaks down data into a user friendly interface that shows coin portfolio, redeemed rewards, and social scores per campaign. See example here.
Exiting is fast & simple
Withdrawing funds on Dragonchain’s console requires three clicks, however, withdrawal scenarios with more enhanced security features per Reddit’s discretion are obtainable.
Interoperability Compatibility with third party apps (wallets/contracts/etc) is necessary.
Proven interoperability at scale that surpasses the required specifications. Our entire platform consists of interoperable blockchains connected to each other and traditional systems. APIs are well documented. Third party permissions are possible with a simple smart contract without the end user being aware. No need to learn any specialized proprietary language. Any code base (not subsets) is usable within a Docker container. Interoperable with any blockchain or traditional APIs. We’ve witnessed relatively complex systems built by engineers with no blockchain or cryptocurrency experience. We’ve also demonstrated the creation of smart contracts within minutes built with BASH shell and Node.js. Please see our source code and API documentation.
Scaling solutions should be extensible and allow third parties to build on top of it Open source and extensible APIs should be well documented and stable
Third-party permissionless integrations should be possible & straightforward Smart contracts are Docker based, can be written in any language, use full language (not subsets), and can therefore be integrated with any system including traditional system APIs. Simple is better. Learning an uncommon or proprietary language should not be necessary.
Advanced knowledge of mathematics, cryptography, or L2 scaling should not be required. Compatibility with common utilities & toolchains is expected. Dragonchain business nodes and smart contracts leverage Docker to allow the use of literally any language or executable code. No proprietary language is necessary. We’ve witnessed relatively complex systems built by engineers with no blockchain or cryptocurrency experience. We’ve also demonstrated the creation of smart contracts within minutes built with BASH shell and Node.js.
Bonus Points: Show us how it works. Do you have an idea for a cool new use case for Community Points? Build it!
Community points could be awarded to Reddit users based upon TIME too, whereas the longer someone is part of a subreddit, the more community points someone naturally gained, even if not actively commenting or sharing new posts. A daily login could be required for these community points to be credited. This grants awards to readers too and incentivizes readers to create an account on Reddit if they browse the website often. This concept could also be leveraged to provide some level of reputation based upon duration and consistency of contribution to a community subreddit.
Dragonchain has already built a social media platform that harnesses community involvement. Dragon Den is a decentralized community built on the Dragonchain blockchain platform. Dragon Den is Dragonchain’s answer to fake news, trolling, and censorship. It incentivizes the creation and evaluation of quality content within communities. It could be described as being a shareholder of a subreddit or Reddit in its entirety. The more your subreddit is thriving, the more rewarding it will be. Den is currently in a public beta and in active development, though the real token economy is not live yet. There are different tokens for various purposes. Two tokens are Lair Ownership Rights (LOR) and Lair Ownership Tokens (LOT). LOT is a non-fungible token for ownership of a specific Lair. LOT will only be created and converted from LOR. Energy (NRG) and Matter (MTR) work jointly. Your MTR determines how much NRG you receive in a 24-hour period. Providing quality content, or evaluating content will earn MTR.
Security. Users have full ownership & control of their points.
All community points awarded based upon any type of activity or gift, are secured and provable to all Interchain networks (currently BTC, ETH, ETC). Users are free to spend and withdraw their points as they please, depending on the features Reddit wants to bring into production.
Balances and transactions cannot be forged, manipulated, or blocked by Reddit or anyone else
Users can withdraw their balance to their ERC20 wallet, directly through Reddit. Reddit can cover the fees on their behalf, or the user covers this with a portion of their balance.
Users should own their points and be able to get on-chain ERC20 tokens without permission from anyone else
Through our console users can withdraw their ERC20 rewards. This can be achieved on Reddit too. Here is a walkthrough of our console, though this does not show the quick withdrawal functionality, a user can withdraw at any time. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aNlTMxnfVHw
Points should be recoverable to on-chain ERC20 tokens even if all third-parties involved go offline
If necessary, signed transactions from the Reddit system (e.g. Reddit + Subreddit) can be sent to the Ethereum smart contract for minting.
A public, third-party review attesting to the soundness of the design should be available
To our knowledge, at least two large corporations, including a top 3 accounting firm, have conducted positive reviews. These reviews have never been made public, as Dragonchain did not pay or contract for these studies to be released.
Bonus points Public, third-party implementation review available or in progress
Compatibility with HSMs & hardware wallets
For the purpose of this proposal, all tokenization would be on the Ethereum network using standard token contracts and as such, would be able to leverage all hardware wallet and Ethereum ecosystem services.
Minting/distributing tokens is not performed by Reddit directly
This operation can be automated by smart contract on Ethereum. Subreddits can if desired have a role to play.
One off point burning, as well as recurring, non-interactive point burning (for subreddit memberships) should be possible and scalable
This is possible and scalable with interaction between Dragonchain Reddit system and Ethereum token contract(s).
Fully open-source solutions are strongly preferred
Dragonchain is fully open source (see section on Disney release after conclusion).
Whether it is today, or in the future, we would like to work together to bring secure flexibility to the highest standards. It is our hope to be considered by Ethereum, Reddit, and other integrative solutions so we may further discuss the possibilities of implementation. In our public demonstration, 256 million transactions were handled in our operational network on chain in 24 hours, for the low cost of $25K, which if run today would cost $625. Dragonchain’s interoperable foundation provides the atmosphere necessary to implement a frictionless community points system. Thank you for your consideration of our proposal. We look forward to working with the community to make something great!
Disney Releases Blockchain Platform as Open Source
The team at Disney created the Disney Private Blockchain Platform. The system was a hybrid interoperable blockchain platform for ledgering and smart contract development geared toward solving problems with blockchain adoption and usability. All objective evaluation would consider the team’s output a success. We released a list of use cases that we explored in some capacity at Disney, and our input on blockchain standardization as part of our participation in the W3C Blockchain Community Group. https://lists.w3.org/Archives/Public/public-blockchain/2016May/0052.html
In 2016, Roets proposed to release the platform as open source to spread the technology outside of Disney, as others within the W3C group were interested in the solutions that had been created inside of Disney. Following a long process, step by step, the team met requirements for release. Among the requirements, the team had to:
Obtain VP support and approval for the release
Verify ownership of the software to be released
Verify that no proprietary content would be released
Convince the organization that there was a value to the open source community
Convince the organization that there was a value to Disney
Offer the plan for ongoing maintenance of the project outside of Disney
Itemize competing projects
Verify no conflict of interest
Change the project name to not use the name Disney, any Disney character, or any other associated IP - proposed Dragonchain - approved
Obtain legal approval
Approval from corporate, parks, and other business units
Approval from multiple Disney patent groups Copyright holder defined by Disney (Disney Connected and Advanced Technologies)
Trademark searches conducted for the selected name Dragonchain
Obtain IT security approval
Manual review of OSS components conducted
OWASP Dependency and Vulnerability Check Conducted
Obtain technical (software) approval
Offer management, process, and financial plans for the maintenance of the project.
Meet list of items to be addressed before release
Remove all Disney project references and scripts
Create a public distribution list for email communications
Remove Roets’ direct and internal contact information
Create public Slack channel and move from Disney slack channels
Create proper labels for issue tracking
Rename internal private Github repository
Add informative description to Github page
Expand README.md with more specific information
Add information beyond current “Blockchains are Magic”
Add getting started sections and info on cloning/forking the project
Add installation details
Add uninstall process
Add unit, functional, and integration test information
Detail how to contribute and get involved
Describe the git workflow that the project will use
Move to public, non-Disney git repository (Github or Bitbucket)
Obtain Disney Open Source Committee approval for release
On top of meeting the above criteria, as part of the process, the maintainer of the project had to receive the codebase on their own personal email and create accounts for maintenance (e.g. Github) with non-Disney accounts. Given the fact that the project spanned multiple business units, Roets was individually responsible for its ongoing maintenance. Because of this, he proposed in the open source application to create a non-profit organization to hold the IP and maintain the project. This was approved by Disney. The Disney Open Source Committee approved the application known as OSSRELEASE-10, and the code was released on October 2, 2016. Disney decided to not issue a press release. Original OSSRELASE-10 document
Summary: Everyone knows that when you give your assets to someone else, they always keep them safe. If this is true for individuals, it is certainly true for businesses. Custodians always tell the truth and manage funds properly. They won't have any interest in taking the assets as an exchange operator would. Auditors tell the truth and can't be misled. That's because organizations that are regulated are incapable of lying and don't make mistakes. First, some background. Here is a summary of how custodians make us more secure: Previously, we might give Alice our crypto assets to hold. There were risks:
Alice might take the assets and disappear.
Alice might spend the assets and pretend that she still has them (fractional model).
Alice might store the assets insecurely and they'll get stolen.
Alice might give the assets to someone else by mistake or by force.
Alice might lose access to the assets.
But "no worries", Alice has a custodian named Bob. Bob is dressed in a nice suit. He knows some politicians. And he drives a Porsche. "So you have nothing to worry about!". And look at all the benefits we get:
Alice can't take the assets and disappear (unless she asks Bob or never gives them to Bob).
Alice can't spend the assets and pretend that she still has them. (Unless she didn't give them to Bob or asks him for them.)
Alice can't store the assets insecurely so they get stolen. (After all - she doesn't have any control over the withdrawal process from any of Bob's systems, right?)
Alice can't give the assets to someone else by mistake or by force. (Bob will stop her, right Bob?)
Alice can't lose access to the funds. (She'll always be present, sane, and remember all secrets, right?)
See - all problems are solved! All we have to worry about now is:
Bob might take the assets and disappear.
Bob might spend the assets and pretend that he still has them (fractional model).
Bob might store the assets insecurely and they'll get stolen.
Bob might give the assets to someone else by mistake or by force.
Bob might lose access to the assets.
It's pretty simple. Before we had to trust Alice. Now we only have to trust Alice, Bob, and all the ways in which they communicate. Just think of how much more secure we are! "On top of that", Bob assures us, "we're using a special wallet structure". Bob shows Alice a diagram. "We've broken the balance up and store it in lots of smaller wallets. That way", he assures her, "a thief can't take it all at once". And he points to a historic case where a large sum was taken "because it was stored in a single wallet... how stupid". "Very early on, we used to have all the crypto in one wallet", he said, "and then one Christmas a hacker came and took it all. We call him the Grinch. Now we individually wrap each crypto and stick it under a binary search tree. The Grinch has never been back since." "As well", Bob continues, "even if someone were to get in, we've got insurance. It covers all thefts and even coercion, collusion, and misplaced keys - only subject to the policy terms and conditions." And with that, he pulls out a phone-book sized contract and slams it on the desk with a thud. "Yep", he continues, "we're paying top dollar for one of the best policies in the country!" "Can I read it?' Alice asks. "Sure," Bob says, "just as soon as our legal team is done with it. They're almost through the first chapter." He pauses, then continues. "And can you believe that sales guy Mike? He has the same year Porsche as me. I mean, what are the odds?" "Do you use multi-sig?", Alice asks. "Absolutely!" Bob replies. "All our engineers are fully trained in multi-sig. Whenever we want to set up a new wallet, we generate 2 separate keys in an air-gapped process and store them in this proprietary system here. Look, it even requires the biometric signature from one of our team members to initiate any withdrawal." He demonstrates by pressing his thumb into the display. "We use a third-party cloud validation API to match the thumbprint and authorize each withdrawal. The keys are also backed up daily to an off-site third-party." "Wow that's really impressive," Alice says, "but what if we need access for a withdrawal outside of office hours?" "Well that's no issue", Bob says, "just send us an email, call, or text message and we always have someone on staff to help out. Just another part of our strong commitment to all our customers!" "What about Proof of Reserve?", Alice asks. "Of course", Bob replies, "though rather than publish any blockchain addresses or signed transaction, for privacy we just do a SHA256 refactoring of the inverse hash modulus for each UTXO nonce and combine the smart contract coefficient consensus in our hyperledger lightning node. But it's really simple to use." He pushes a button and a large green checkmark appears on a screen. "See - the algorithm ran through and reserves are proven." "Wow", Alice says, "you really know your stuff! And that is easy to use! What about fiat balances?" "Yeah, we have an auditor too", Bob replies, "Been using him for a long time so we have quite a strong relationship going! We have special books we give him every year and he's very efficient! Checks the fiat, crypto, and everything all at once!" "We used to have a nice offline multi-sig setup we've been using without issue for the past 5 years, but I think we'll move all our funds over to your facility," Alice says. "Awesome", Bob replies, "Thanks so much! This is perfect timing too - my Porsche got a dent on it this morning. We have the paperwork right over here." "Great!", Alice replies. And with that, Alice gets out her pen and Bob gets the contract. "Don't worry", he says, "you can take your crypto-assets back anytime you like - just subject to our cancellation policy. Our annual management fees are also super low and we don't adjust them often". How many holes have to exist for your funds to get stolen? Just one. Why are we taking a powerful offline multi-sig setup, widely used globally in hundreds of different/lacking regulatory environments with 0 breaches to date, and circumventing it by a demonstrably weak third party layer? And paying a great expense to do so? If you go through the list of breaches in the past 2 years to highly credible organizations, you go through the list of major corporate frauds (only the ones we know about), you go through the list of all the times platforms have lost funds, you go through the list of times and ways that people have lost their crypto from identity theft, hot wallet exploits, extortion, etc... and then you go through this custodian with a fine-tooth comb and truly believe they have value to add far beyond what you could, sticking your funds in a wallet (or set of wallets) they control exclusively is the absolute worst possible way to take advantage of that security. The best way to add security for crypto-assets is to make a stronger multi-sig. With one custodian, what you are doing is giving them your cryptocurrency and hoping they're honest, competent, and flawlessly secure. It's no different than storing it on a really secure exchange. Maybe the insurance will cover you. Didn't work for Bitpay in 2015. Didn't work for Yapizon in 2017. Insurance has never paid a claim in the entire history of cryptocurrency. But maybe you'll get lucky. Maybe your exact scenario will buck the trend and be what they're willing to cover. After the large deductible and hopefully without a long and expensive court battle. And you want to advertise this increase in risk, the lapse of judgement, an accident waiting to happen, as though it's some kind of benefit to customers ("Free institutional-grade storage for your digital assets.")? And then some people are writing to the OSC that custodians should be mandatory for all funds on every exchange platform? That this somehow will make Canadians as a whole more secure or better protected compared with standard air-gapped multi-sig? On what planet? Most of the problems in Canada stemmed from one thing - a lack of transparency. If Canadians had known what a joke Quadriga was - it wouldn't have grown to lose $400m from hard-working Canadians from coast to coast to coast. And Gerald Cotten would be in jail, not wherever he is now (at best, rotting peacefully). EZ-BTC and mister Dave Smilie would have been a tiny little scam to his friends, not a multi-million dollar fraud. Einstein would have got their act together or been shut down BEFORE losing millions and millions more in people's funds generously donated to criminals. MapleChange wouldn't have even been a thing. And maybe we'd know a little more about CoinTradeNewNote - like how much was lost in there. Almost all of the major losses with cryptocurrency exchanges involve deception with unbacked funds. So it's great to see transparency reports from BitBuy and ShakePay where someone independently verified the backing. The only thing we don't have is:
ANY CERTAINTY BALANCES WEREN'T EXCLUDED. Quadriga's largest account was $70m. 80% of funds are in 20% of accounts (Pareto principle). All it takes is excluding a few really large accounts - and nobody's the wiser. A fractional platform can easily pass any audit this way.
ANY VISIBILITY WHATSOEVER INTO THE CUSTODIANS. BitBuy put out their report before moving all the funds to their custodian and ShakePay apparently can't even tell us who the custodian is. That's pretty important considering that basically all of the funds are now stored there.
ANY IDEA ABOUT THE OTHER EXCHANGES. In order for this to be effective, it has to be the norm. It needs to be "unusual" not to know. If obscurity is the norm, then it's super easy for people like Gerald Cotten and Dave Smilie to blend right in.
It's not complicated to validate cryptocurrency assets. They need to exist, they need to be spendable, and they need to cover the total balances. There are plenty of credible people and firms across the country that have the capacity to reasonably perform this validation. Having more frequent checks by different, independent, parties who publish transparent reports is far more valuable than an annual check by a single "more credible/official" party who does the exact same basic checks and may or may not publish anything. Here's an example set of requirements that could be mandated:
First report within 1 month of launching, another within 3 months, and further reports at minimum every 6 months thereafter.
No auditor can be repeated within a 12 month period.
All reports must be public, identifying the auditor and the full methodology used.
All auditors must be independent of the firm being audited with no conflict of interest.
Reports must include the percentage of each asset backed, and how it's backed.
The auditor publishes a hash list, which lists a hash of each customer's information and balances that were included. Hash is one-way encryption so privacy is fully preserved. Every customer can use this to have 100% confidence they were included.
If we want more extensive requirements on audits, these should scale upward based on the total assets at risk on the platform, and whether the platform has loaned their assets out.
There are ways to structure audits such that neither crypto assets nor customer information are ever put at risk, and both can still be properly validated and publicly verifiable. There are also ways to structure audits such that they are completely reasonable for small platforms and don't inhibit innovation in any way. By making the process as reasonable as possible, we can completely eliminate any reason/excuse that an honest platform would have for not being audited. That is arguable far more important than any incremental improvement we might get from mandating "the best of the best" accountants. Right now we have nothing mandated and tons of Canadians using offshore exchanges with no oversight whatsoever. Transparency does not prove crypto assets are safe. CoinTradeNewNote, Flexcoin ($600k), and Canadian Bitcoins ($100k) are examples where crypto-assets were breached from platforms in Canada. All of them were online wallets and used no multi-sig as far as any records show. This is consistent with what we see globally - air-gapped multi-sig wallets have an impeccable record, while other schemes tend to suffer breach after breach. We don't actually know how much CoinTrader lost because there was no visibility. Rather than publishing details of what happened, the co-founder of CoinTrader silently moved on to found another platform - the "most trusted way to buy and sell crypto" - a site that has no information whatsoever (that I could find) on the storage practices and a FAQ advising that “[t]rading cryptocurrency is completely safe” and that having your own wallet is “entirely up to you! You can certainly keep cryptocurrency, or fiat, or both, on the app.” Doesn't sound like much was learned here, which is really sad to see. It's not that complicated or unreasonable to set up a proper hardware wallet. Multi-sig can be learned in a single course. Something the equivalent complexity of a driver's license test could prevent all the cold storage exploits we've seen to date - even globally. Platform operators have a key advantage in detecting and preventing fraud - they know their customers far better than any custodian ever would. The best job that custodians can do is to find high integrity individuals and train them to form even better wallet signatories. Rather than mandating that all platforms expose themselves to arbitrary third party risks, regulations should center around ensuring that all signatories are background-checked, properly trained, and using proper procedures. We also need to make sure that signatories are empowered with rights and responsibilities to reject and report fraud. They need to know that they can safely challenge and delay a transaction - even if it turns out they made a mistake. We need to have an environment where mistakes are brought to the surface and dealt with. Not one where firms and people feel the need to hide what happened. In addition to a knowledge-based test, an auditor can privately interview each signatory to make sure they're not in coercive situations, and we should make sure they can freely and anonymously report any issues without threat of retaliation. A proper multi-sig has each signature held by a separate person and is governed by policies and mutual decisions instead of a hierarchy. It includes at least one redundant signature. For best results, 3of4, 3of5, 3of6, 4of5, 4of6, 4of7, 5of6, or 5of7. History has demonstrated over and over again the risk of hot wallets even to highly credible organizations. Nonetheless, many platforms have hot wallets for convenience. While such losses are generally compensated by platforms without issue (for example Poloniex, Bitstamp, Bitfinex, Gatecoin, Coincheck, Bithumb, Zaif, CoinBene, Binance, Bitrue, Bitpoint, Upbit, VinDAX, and now KuCoin), the public tends to focus more on cases that didn't end well. Regardless of what systems are employed, there is always some level of risk. For that reason, most members of the public would prefer to see third party insurance. Rather than trying to convince third party profit-seekers to provide comprehensive insurance and then relying on an expensive and slow legal system to enforce against whatever legal loopholes they manage to find each and every time something goes wrong, insurance could be run through multiple exchange operators and regulators, with the shared interest of having a reputable industry, keeping costs down, and taking care of Canadians. For example, a 4 of 7 multi-sig insurance fund held between 5 independent exchange operators and 2 regulatory bodies. All Canadian exchanges could pay premiums at a set rate based on their needed coverage, with a higher price paid for hot wallet coverage (anything not an air-gapped multi-sig cold wallet). Such a model would be much cheaper to manage, offer better coverage, and be much more reliable to payout when needed. The kind of coverage you could have under this model is unheard of. You could even create something like the CDIC to protect Canadians who get their trading accounts hacked if they can sufficiently prove the loss is legitimate. In cases of fraud, gross negligence, or insolvency, the fund can be used to pay affected users directly (utilizing the last transparent balance report in the worst case), something which private insurance would never touch. While it's recommended to have official policies for coverage, a model where members vote would fully cover edge cases. (Could be similar to the Supreme Court where justices vote based on case law.) Such a model could fully protect all Canadians across all platforms. You can have a fiat coverage governed by legal agreements, and crypto-asset coverage governed by both multi-sig and legal agreements. It could be practical, affordable, and inclusive. Now, we are at a crossroads. We can happily give up our freedom, our innovation, and our money. We can pay hefty expenses to auditors, lawyers, and regulators year after year (and make no mistake - this cost will grow to many millions or even billions as the industry grows - and it will be borne by all Canadians on every platform because platforms are not going to eat up these costs at a loss). We can make it nearly impossible for any new platform to enter the marketplace, forcing Canadians to use the same stagnant platforms year after year. We can centralize and consolidate the entire industry into 2 or 3 big players and have everyone else fail (possibly to heavy losses of users of those platforms). And when a flawed security model doesn't work and gets breached, we can make it even more complicated with even more people in suits making big money doing the job that blockchain was supposed to do in the first place. We can build a system which is so intertwined and dependent on big government, traditional finance, and central bankers that it's future depends entirely on that of the fiat system, of fractional banking, and of government bail-outs. If we choose this path, as history has shown us over and over again, we can not go back, save for revolution. Our children and grandchildren will still be paying the consequences of what we decided today. Or, we can find solutions that work. We can maintain an open and innovative environment while making the adjustments we need to make to fully protect Canadian investors and cryptocurrency users, giving easy and affordable access to cryptocurrency for all Canadians on the platform of their choice, and creating an environment in which entrepreneurs and problem solvers can bring those solutions forward easily. None of the above precludes innovation in any way, or adds any unreasonable cost - and these three policies would demonstrably eliminate or resolve all 109 historic cases as studied here - that's every single case researched so far going back to 2011. It includes every loss that was studied so far not just in Canada but globally as well. Unfortunately, finding answers is the least challenging part. Far more challenging is to get platform operators and regulators to agree on anything. My last post got no response whatsoever, and while the OSC has told me they're happy for industry feedback, I believe my opinion alone is fairly meaningless. This takes the whole community working together to solve. So please let me know your thoughts. Please take the time to upvote and share this with people. Please - let's get this solved and not leave it up to other people to do. Facts/background/sources (skip if you like):
The inspiration for the paragraph about splitting wallets was an actual quote from a Canadian company providing custodial services in response to the OSC consultation paper: "We believe that it will be in the in best interests of investors to prohibit pooled crypto assets or ‘floats’. Most Platforms pool assets, citing reasons of practicality and expense. The recent hack of the world’s largest Platform – Binance – demonstrates the vulnerability of participants’ assets when such concessions are made. In this instance, the Platform’s entire hot wallet of Bitcoins, worth over $40 million, was stolen, facilitated in part by the pooling of client crypto assets." "the maintenance of participants (and Platform) crypto assets across multiple wallets distributes the related risk and responsibility of security - reducing the amount of insurance coverage required and making insurance coverage more readily obtainable". For the record, their reply also said nothing whatsoever about multi-sig or offline storage.
In addition to the fact that the $40m hack represented only one "hot wallet" of Binance, and they actually had the vast majority of assets in other wallets (including mostly cold wallets), multiple real cases have clearly demonstrated that risk is still present with multiple wallets. Bitfinex, VinDAX, Bithumb, Altsbit, BitPoint, Cryptopia, and just recently KuCoin all had multiple wallets breached all at the same time, and may represent a significantly larger impact on customers than the Binance breach which was fully covered by Binance. To represent that simply having multiple separate wallets under the same security scheme is a comprehensive way to reduce risk is just not true.
Private insurance has historically never covered a single loss in the cryptocurrency space (at least, not one that I was able to find), and there are notable cases where massive losses were not covered by insurance. Bitpay in 2015 and Yapizon in 2017 both had insurance policies that didn't pay out during the breach, even after a lengthly court process. The same insurance that ShakePay is presently using (and announced to much fanfare) was describe by their CEO himself as covering “physical theft of the media where the private keys are held,” which is something that has never historically happened. As was said with regard to the same policy in 2018 - “I don’t find it surprising that Lloyd’s is in this space,” said Johnson, adding that to his mind the challenge for everybody is figuring out how to structure these policies so that they are actually protective. “You can create an insurance policy that protects no one – you know there are so many caveats to the policy that it’s not super protective.”
The most profitable policy for a private insurance company is one with the most expensive premiums that they never have to pay a claim on. They have no inherent incentive to take care of people who lost funds. It's "cheaper" to take the reputational hit and fight the claim in court. The more money at stake, the more the insurance provider is incentivized to avoid payout. They're not going to insure the assets unless they have reasonable certainty to make a profit by doing so, and they're not going to pay out a massive sum unless it's legally forced. Private insurance is always structured to be maximally profitable to the insurance provider.
The circumvention of multi-sig was a key factor in the massive Bitfinex hack of over $60m of bitcoin, which today still sits being slowly used and is worth over $3b. While Bitfinex used a qualified custodian Bitgo, which was and still is active and one of the industry leaders of custodians, and they set up 2 of 3 multi-sig wallets, the entire system was routed through Bitfinex, such that Bitfinex customers could initiate the withdrawals in a "hot" fashion. This feature was also a hit with the hacker. The multi-sig was fully circumvented.
Bitpay in 2015 was another example of a breach that stole 5,000 bitcoins. This happened not through the exploit of any system in Bitpay, but because the CEO of a company they worked with got their computer hacked and the hackers were able to request multiple bitcoin purchases, which Bitpay honoured because they came from the customer's computer legitimately. Impersonation is a very common tactic used by fraudsters, and methods get more extreme all the time.
A notable case in Canada was the Canadian Bitcoins exploit. Funds were stored on a server in a Rogers Data Center, and the attendee was successfully convinced to reboot the server "in safe mode" with a simple phone call, thus bypassing the extensive security and enabling the theft.
The very nature of custodians circumvents multi-sig. This is because custodians are not just having to secure the assets against some sort of physical breach but against any form of social engineering, modification of orders, fraudulent withdrawal attempts, etc... If the security practices of signatories in a multi-sig arrangement are such that the breach risk of one signatory is 1 in 100, the requirement of 3 independent signatures makes the risk of theft 1 in 1,000,000. Since hackers tend to exploit the weakest link, a comparable custodian has to make the entry and exit points of their platform 10,000 times more secure than one of those signatories to provide equivalent protection. And if the signatories beef up their security by only 10x, the risk is now 1 in 1,000,000,000. The custodian has to be 1,000,000 times more secure. The larger and more complex a system is, the more potential vulnerabilities exist in it, and the fewer people can understand how the system works when performing upgrades. Even if a system is completely secure today, one has to also consider how that system might evolve over time or work with different members.
By contrast, offline multi-signature solutions have an extremely solid record, and in the entire history of cryptocurrency exchange incidents which I've studied (listed here), there has only been one incident (796 exchange in 2015) involving an offline multi-signature wallet. It happened because the customer's bitcoin address was modified by hackers, and the amount that was stolen ($230k) was immediately covered by the exchange operators. Basically, the platform operators were tricked into sending a legitimate withdrawal request to the wrong address because hackers exploited their platform to change that address. Such an issue would not be prevented in any way by the use of a custodian, as that custodian has no oversight whatsoever to the exchange platform. It's practical for all exchange operators to test large withdrawal transactions as a general policy, regardless of what model is used, and general best practice is to diagnose and fix such an exploit as soon as it occurs.
False promises on the backing of funds played a huge role in the downfall of Quadriga, and it's been exposed over and over again (MyCoin, PlusToken, Bitsane, Bitmarket, EZBTC, IDAX). Even today, customers have extremely limited certainty on whether their funds in exchanges are actually being backed or how they're being backed. While this issue is not unique to cryptocurrency exchanges, the complexity of the technology and the lack of any regulation or standards makes problems more widespread, and there is no "central bank" to come to the rescue as in the 2008 financial crisis or during the great depression when "9,000 banks failed".
In addition to fraudulent operations, the industry is full of cases where operators have suffered breaches and not reported them. Most recently, Einstein was the largest case in Canada, where ongoing breaches and fraud were perpetrated against the platform for multiple years and nobody found out until the platform collapsed completely. While fraud and breaches suck to deal with, they suck even more when not dealt with. Lack of visibility played a role in the largest downfalls of Mt. Gox, Cryptsy, and Bitgrail. In some cases, platforms are alleged to have suffered a hack and keep operating without admitting it at all, such as CoinBene.
It surprises some to learn that a cryptographic solution has already existed since 2013, and gained widespread support in 2014 after Mt. Gox. Proof of Reserves is a full cryptographic proof that allows any customer using an exchange to have complete certainty that their crypto-assets are fully backed by the platform in real-time. This is accomplished by proving that assets exist on the blockchain, are spendable, and fully cover customer deposits. It does not prove safety of assets or backing of fiat assets.
If we didn't care about privacy at all, a platform could publish their wallet addresses, sign a partial transaction, and put the full list of customer information and balances out publicly. Customers can each check that they are on the list, that the balances are accurate, that the total adds up, and that it's backed and spendable on the blockchain. Platforms who exclude any customer take a risk because that customer can easily check and see they were excluded. So together with all customers checking, this forms a full proof of backing of all crypto assets.
However, obviously customers care about their private information being published. Therefore, a hash of the information can be provided instead. Hash is one-way encryption. The hash allows the customer to validate inclusion (by hashing their own known information), while anyone looking at the list of hashes cannot determine the private information of any other user. All other parts of the scheme remain fully intact. A model like this is in use on the exchange CoinFloor in the UK.
A Merkle tree can provide even greater privacy. Instead of a list of balances, the balances are arranged into a binary tree. A customer starts from their node, and works their way to the top of the tree. For example, they know they have 5 BTC, they plus 1 other customer hold 7 BTC, they plus 2-3 other customers hold 17 BTC, etc... until they reach the root where all the BTC are represented. Thus, there is no way to find the balances of other individual customers aside from one unidentified customer in this case.
Proposals such as this had the backing of leaders in the community including Nic Carter, Greg Maxwell, and Zak Wilcox. Substantial and significant effort started back in 2013, with massive popularity in 2014. But what became of that effort? Very little. Exchange operators continue to refuse to give visibility. Despite the fact this information can often be obtained through trivial blockchain analysis, no Canadian platform has ever provided any wallet addresses publicly. As described by the CEO of Newton "For us to implement some kind of realtime Proof of Reserves solution, which I'm not opposed to, it would have to ... Preserve our users' privacy, as well as our own. Some kind of zero-knowledge proof". Kraken describes here in more detail why they haven't implemented such a scheme. According to professor Eli Ben-Sasson, when he spoke with exchanges, none were interested in implementing Proof of Reserves.
And yet, Kraken's places their reasoning on a page called "Proof of Reserves". More recently, both BitBuy and ShakePay have released reports titled "Proof of Reserves and Security Audit". Both reports contain disclaimers against being audits. Both reports trust the customer list provided by the platform, leaving the open possibility that multiple large accounts could have been excluded from the process. Proof of Reserves is a blockchain validation where customers see the wallets on the blockchain. The report from Kraken is 5 years old, but they leave it described as though it was just done a few weeks ago. And look at what they expect customers to do for validation. When firms represent something being "Proof of Reserve" when it's not, this is like a farmer growing fruit with pesticides and selling it in a farmers market as organic produce - except that these are people's hard-earned life savings at risk here. Platforms are misrepresenting the level of visibility in place and deceiving the public by their misuse of this term. They haven't proven anything.
Fraud isn't a problem that is unique to cryptocurrency. Fraud happens all the time. Enron, WorldCom, Nortel, Bear Stearns, Wells Fargo, Moser Baer, Wirecard, Bre-X, and Nicola are just some of the cases where frauds became large enough to become a big deal (and there are so many countless others). These all happened on 100% reversible assets despite regulations being in place. In many of these cases, the problems happened due to the over-complexity of the financial instruments. For example, Enron had "complex financial statements [which] were confusing to shareholders and analysts", creating "off-balance-sheet vehicles, complex financing structures, and deals so bewildering that few people could understand them". In cryptocurrency, we are often combining complex financial products with complex technologies and verification processes. We are naïve if we think problems like this won't happen. It is awkward and uncomfortable for many people to admit that they don't know how something works. If we want "money of the people" to work, the solutions have to be simple enough that "the people" can understand them, not so confusing that financial professionals and technology experts struggle to use or understand them.
For those who question the extent to which an organization can fool their way into a security consultancy role, HB Gary should be a great example to look at. Prior to trying to out anonymous, HB Gary was being actively hired by multiple US government agencies and others in the private sector (with glowing testimonials). The published articles and hosted professional security conferences. One should also look at this list of data breaches from the past 2 years. Many of them are large corporations, government entities, and technology companies. These are the ones we know about. Undoubtedly, there are many more that we do not know about. If HB Gary hadn't been "outted" by anonymous, would we have known they were insecure? If the same breach had happened outside of the public spotlight, would it even have been reported? Or would HB Gary have just deleted the Twitter posts, brought their site back up, done a couple patches, and kept on operating as though nothing had happened?
In the case of Quadriga, the facts are clear. Despite past experience with platforms such as MapleChange in Canada and others around the world, no guidance or even the most basic of a framework was put in place by regulators. By not clarifying any sort of legal framework, regulators enabled a situation where a platform could be run by former criminal Mike Dhanini/Omar Patryn, and where funds could be held fully unchecked by one person. At the same time, the lack of regulation deterred legitimate entities from running competing platforms and Quadriga was granted a money services business license for multiple years of operation, which gave the firm the appearance of legitimacy. Regulators did little to protect Canadians despite Quadriga failing to file taxes from 2016 onward. The entire administrative team had resigned and this was public knowledge. Many people had suspicions of what was going on, including Ryan Mueller, who forwarded complaints to the authorities. These were ignored, giving Gerald Cotten the opportunity to escape without justice.
There are multiple issues with the SOC II model including the prohibitive cost (you have to find a third party accounting firm and the prices are not even listed publicly on any sites), the requirement of operating for a year (impossible for new platforms), and lack of any public visibility (SOC II are private reports that aren't shared outside the people in suits).
Securities frameworks are expensive. Sarbanes-Oxley is estimated to cost $5.1 million USD/yr for the average Fortune 500 company in the United States. Since "Fortune 500" represents the top 500 companies, that means well over $2.55 billion USD (~$3.4 billion CAD) is going to people in suits. Isn't the problem of trust and verification the exact problem that the blockchain is supposed to solve?
To use Quadriga as justification for why custodians or SOC II or other advanced schemes are needed for platforms is rather silly, when any framework or visibility at all, or even the most basic of storage policies, would have prevented the whole thing. It's just an embarrassment.
We are now seeing regulators take strong action. CoinSquare in Canada with multi-million dollar fines. BitMex from the US, criminal charges and arrests. OkEx, with full disregard of withdrawals and no communication. Who's next?
We have a unique window today where we can solve these problems, and not permanently destroy innovation with unreasonable expectations, but we need to act quickly. This is a unique historic time that will never come again.
[Table] IAmA dark web expert, investigative journalist and true crime author. I’ve met dark web kingpins in far flung prisons and delved the murky depths of child predator forums. I’ve written six books and over a dozen Casefile podcast episodes. AMA (part 1/2)
Source | Guestbook Note: Some answers were repetitive, but were not edited out.
Have you ever gotten into legal trouble by exploring the dark places of the internet? Like, "sorry, officer, I was only surfing drug markets and child molester forums for my next journalism piece..." Do you worry about that? Do you have to take extra steps to protect yourself?
I'm very careful not to go anywhere that it is illegal to visit. You will hear loads of stories about how easy it is to "stumble upon" child porn, but the fact is that those sites usually have names like "Preteen cuties" so you know exactly what they are, and in order to access them you have to register. So you have to make a very deliberate choice to log into them. I have no interest whatsoever in viewing any child abuse material, so I don't go into those places. When I was researching The Darkest Web, I went to the discussion forums that didn't allow any images (though they did link to sites that did), and even there I turned off images.
As for the drugs, weapons etc, there is nothing illegal about surfing them and looking around.
I do get a bit nervous every time I visit the US, especially when I was invited to a "friendly" lunch with Homeland Security once (it was reasonably friendly as it turns out, it was also terrifying)
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Why did homeland security want to talk to you?
They said it was about the murder-for-hire stuff, but some of the questions leaned toward something else
Is there anything that really concerns you about the dark web? Some of the things already discussed are beyond barbaric and that is only the stuff that has been found out about and been picked up by the media and your fantastic work. Do you think the public should expect worse and more horrific revelations from the dark web or is it just "more of the same" for lack of a better term and do you think the authorities are getting better in shutting this inhumanity down and catching the people responsible?
I am definitely not against people taking back their online privacy and I actually think that buying drugs from the darknet markets is a safer and more sensible option than buying them from the dodgy dealer down the road. However the one thing that is really disturbing is that the dark web has provided a place for child predators to find each other and form communities where they support and egg each other on. Imagine a few years ago, someone who was into hurtcore could never tell anyone else and would be unlikely to ever come across another person with the same perversions. Now it is as simple as finding the relevant site on the dark web. When there are suddenly hundreds of people who all think and act in the same way, it normlalizes what they are doing.
One of the guys who got caught, Matthew Falder, was a sadist who used to crowdsource "ideas" for torturing the children and teens he was blackmailing into doing heinous things for him online. But apparently he was a "normal" intelligent popular guy
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But how does everyone participate in those illegal sites without getting caught? You said in other comments that you tried to stay away from underaged sites because they were illegal. Can't they be tracked down, even with tor and a vpn? The thing that I don't understand is that even on the dark web people say you should stay away from illegal sites, but how are pedos not getting caught?
they are getting caught, but the way they are getting caught is through painstaking detective work, looking for clues in photos, befriending them online and getting them to reveal things about themselves (what is known as social engineering). It takes a long time and many resources.
I say don't go there because (a) it is illegal and (b) you really shouldn't want to go there
Iirc you attended the trial of the person behind the horrific hurt core website that was exposed a few years back. I was wondering if there was anything in particular that happened during the trial that particularly shocked or horrified you that isn't really public knowledge or talked about? Reactions from the judge or perpetrator during the trial etc. As I remember it the guy was a fairly young loner who lived with his parents but would probably never have been expected to be behind the horrific vile things which he was found to be. Also, how did you get into investigative journalism/writing?
I wrote in one of the other replies above about the little mute girl that has stayed with me. Also, at the insistence of the prosecution, the judge had to watch "Daisy's Destruction" which was a video of torture of a toddler. He put it off for two days and when he came back he was white. He didn't have the sound on, which is considered the worst part, but he still looked shell-shocked. I don't envy him.
I'll cut'n'paste re your last question: I was in London, working for one of the most conservative law firms in the world when the Global Financial Crisis hit. I liked the job but it struck me when people were losing their livelihoods that I was working for the bad guys. I'd always wanted to be a writer so when I came back to Australia I quit law and enrolled in a writing course planning to be a novelist, but I discovered I was better at journalism. I first wrote for newspapers here about Silk Road and it grew from there
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Thanks for the reply.. that really must've been horrific for all involved from investigation to trial and for all of the victims (apart from the scum responsible of course). I guess it would be naive to assume that the end of this site did anything other than drive this depraved community even further underground. That is the part which is really scary to me but I suppose all we can do is have faith that the authorities are always close on the tail. Thank you for your work on reporting on this and raising this stuff more into the public consciousness and making people more aware of what kind of evil still lurks.
It was the most disturbing two days of my life, made all the worse because they read out hours of interactions from the site where the children still had not been identified or the predators caught.
Hurt2theCore was not the last site of its kind and there are still hurtcore sites to this day on the dark web. The one hopeful thing is that there are international task forces that seem to work together really well (unlike when it comes to drugs and every law enforcement agency wants to take the lead and they all withhold info from each other). There are a lot of resources allocated to identifying predators and their victims. Sometimes this has involved some very controversial tactics, such as taking over the sites and letting them run, so that they can use social engineering techniques to identify those who are using the sites and who are actually abusing children
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So daisy's destruction is real? Was it referred to by that name court? I always thought it was a myth
Yes, Daisy's Destruction is real, it was referred to by name in court and the judge had to watch the 12 minutes of it that were hosted on Hurt2theCore.
The "myth" part is that it shows a murder. The toddler, Daisy, lived, though she suffered such horrific injuries she will never be able to bear children. Hopefully she was young enough that she will grow up without the memory.
However, Scully did murder at least one child, whose body was found under the floorboards of his house. it is not known whether he filmed her murder as no video evidence of it has come to light.
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Thanks for answering. I actually watched a really good video on Hurt2theCore on youtube once, I think it was by a guy called Nexpo. It was really detailed and informative about the whole case - I forgot those details. Thanks again for replying, this AMA is really informative!
I think I recall that one, it was from a few years ago.
An excellent podcast that came out recently is "Hunting Warhead", highly recommend a listen. It is a tough listen, but exceptionally well-told and respectfully handled
How do you detach yourself from your work? I'm an investigator for a law firm and I've had a lot of difficult working on wrongful death cases recently. Also, how did you first end up getting published? Any tips for people interested in that field? Thanks!
I don't detach. When I was researching hurtcore, it was harrowing and affected me deeply. Writing that part of the book was a very slow process because I just couldn't be in that headspace for very long at a time. Once the book was written I didn't go back there.
I already had a reputation as a blogger and a freelance journalist when i pitched my book on Silk Road. I got an agent and it was auctioned off, with Pan MacMillan getting the rights. At the time, Silk Road was still going strong, and the book I wrote was about this new frontier of drug dealing that was changing the world. I was writing it "from the inside" as I had been an active part of the community for two years. However, right as I submitted the final manuscript to my publisher, Silk Road was busted and Ross Ulbricht arrested, so i had to quickly change the narrative to a "Rise and Fall" thing!
How many times have you approached law enforcement with information and how many times has the approach resulted in action? and... are there times where you know something nefarious is happening but history and the evidence at hand tells you it's not worth the effort?
There is no point in approaching law enforcement to say "I have come across this site". If I've found it, you can guarantee law enforcement has found it as well.
The only time I've approached law enforcement was when I had information that they did not, which was when a friendly hacker provided me with a back door into the Besa Mafia murder-for-hire site. I got to see all the messages and orders etc. Of course LE knew about the site, but they did not have the details of the people who had hits taken out on them. We tried desperately to tell police in several countries that real people had paid real money to have other real people killed, but they just weren't interested. We sounded like crazy people talking about dark web hitmen, who were scams anyway and nobody was dead, so why should they be interested? They became much more engaged when one of the people WE HAD PREVIOUSLY TOLD THEM ABOUT later turned up dead
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By law enforcement, do you mean only local or else the big agencies? I feel like I wouldn't tell my local police department because they wouldn't really know what to do. It would have to the the bigger agencies.
FBI in US. NCA in UK. AFP in Australia. Nobody was very interested, although the FBI did visit at least one of the targets to let her know she was a target. She still wound up dead
What are some of the most prevalent uses of the dark web that AREN'T all shady and nefarious?
We might be getting into semantics here, but people use Tor, which is the most possible darknet that is used to access the dark web, just for private browsing and ensuring that commercial interests aren't following them everywhere to bombard them with ads for some thing they looked up.
Some of the news organizations have a dark web presence so that whistleblowers can upload information safely. Even the CIA has a site on the dark web so that people can anonymously tip off matters of national security.
Other than that, there are just forums, where you don't have to worry that every single stupid thing you post will be saved in posterity forever, to be trotted out years later when you run for congress or something
After everything you've seen, does anything surprise you anymore or are you just numb to it at this point? Do you think there should be more education/exposure about the dark web than there is now or would that just be counter-productive as people would just find another place to hide? I'm curious to hear any favourite stories about the Psychonauts.
I am not numb and I hope I never become numb. I really don't visit the horrible dark places very often, unless I'm researching something specific, and even then I don't look at pictures or videos. Most of the crime is pretty benign - I'm not fazed by people wanting a safer way to buy drugs.
I think there needs to be ongoing discussions about online activity and its misuse in general, but most crime still happens on the clearnet. The dark web is not nearly as large or prevalent as people fear.
For a long time, a dealer provided free LSD to anyone who wanted it for personal use (ie not sale) and to any organizations who were doing psychedelic therapy.
One psychonaut got busted and spent time in prison... only he still had bitcoin in a wallet and by the time he was released he was a millionaire. He would have just spent it on drugs otherwise :)
I know law enforcement has to delve into the predator side of the dark web. With what you've seen do you think it should be mandatory or an industry standard that law enforcement officials seek professional help? I couldn't imagine investigating that daily and not thinking less of humanity at some point.
I'm pretty sure they do. I worked for Legal Aid for a while, and i know there were pretty strict rules in place for the lawyers who had to defend child abusers.
When I was at the trial for Lux, owner of Hurt2theCore, I met a cop whose job it was to watch all the videos and befriend the predators in an attempt to get them to slip up and reveal something of themselves. She said she had a little filing cabinet in her brain where she put all that stuff, and that making an arrest made it all worthwhile. She had made several arrests personally. She was a sex offender's worst nightmare :)
What’s one of your personal favorite investigations and what made it unique for you?
By far the Besa Mafia murder-for-hire case. What made it unique was that, first, I was provided a back door into the Besa Mafia site by a friendly hacker, so i had information that nobody else had. But then I became "friends" for want of a better word with the owner of the site, Yura. Besa Mafia, of course, was not killing anyone, but Yura made a LOT of money scamming would-be murderers out of their money. We entered into a weird relationship over the years where i would report on his activities and he would try every trick under the sun to stop me from doing so, so that he could keep scamming people. He even offered me a job, helping him, because he had become so busy. He also provided me with names and details of people who had hits taken out on them so I could pass them on to law enforcement.
It all became horribly real when one of the people who had a hit put out of them wound up dead. It wasn't Yura of course, but the guy had paid him $13K before giving up on the site and doing it himself. The thing was WE HAD TOLD THE FBI about the hit and the $13K and they visited the victim, but then put it into the too-hard basket when she couldn't think who might have paid that much to kill her.
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Wow. That’s actually pretty cool. Reminds me of an old saying. “Keep your friends close, but your enemies closer.”
It's a seriously bizarre relationship. When I was hired as a consultant by CBS for a 48 Hours expose on dark web hitmen, he actually agreed to meet me in London. But he thought that CBS was going to advertise his site as the real deal and he got excited and sent them details of two people who had hits put out on them. CBS sent them straight to the police and very shortly after two arrests were made and it was all over the news, where they called his site a scam. Yura got so pissed about it, he never turned up to our meeting. They had even hired an Academy Award-nominated master of disguise makeup artist to disguise him!
are "red rooms" actually a prevalent thing, or just a widespread misconception or rumor? I ask in part because it's very easy to see, for instance, Mexican cartels dismembering people alive, etc, just on the clearnet. Hell, a couple days ago I saw a video posted of a cartel member cutting out a dude's heart while the guy was alive, and he ATE it. He fucking ATE it. So it seems plausible...
The most popular myth of all is Red Rooms, where people – usually women – are tortured to death live on camera while those who have paid to watch type in torture commands in a chat box. Think the movie Hostel, with webcams. In this sense these have never been proven to exist. I get where you are coming from with the cartels, and the recent news item where they found those shipping containers set up with torture rooms freaked me out and made me wonder!
There is some truth to this rumour, but the execution is not like you see in the movies. Most notably, because it involves children, not adults abused on demand for paying pedophiles, but not to the point of death
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The news about those shipping containers really made me speculate, since for every one person who gets caught doing something evil, there must be at least several more people who are very honed in their 'profession' doing the same evil deeds and worse, yet who evade being captured for decades. Anyway, based on morbid things I've seen, karma comes around eventually...
I know, right? It really freaked me out, and then when I read that they already had intended victims for them but the police got to them first and put them in protected custody.. IMAGINE SEEING THOSE PICTURES AND KNOWING YOU WERE SUPPOSED TO BE IN THEM!! I would retire to a deserted island somewhere
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Your line of work could easily result in something like C-PTSD down the road a little ways. I have a morbid curiosity, and have seen worse than those shipping containers had to offer. I'm sure you have as well. So one more question from you, if you don't mind: what are some proactive approaches to mental health you take to safeguard your sanity?
A lot of wine. Cuddle my dog
Hi, there! This has been fascinating to read; thank you so much for sharing! I'm curious: why do you think so many people who don't want to engage with disgusting and illegal content like hurtcore find it so interesting to read about? Do you have any insight into your readership and the ethics associated with reading about these kind of topics?
I think morbid fascination with the dark is exceedingly common - just look at how many people can't get enough about serial killers! In some ways it is probably a self-defense mechanism - the vast majority of true-crime readers are women. People like to be armed with knowledge. We also like to be spooked and scared.
As for my books, I don't really go into much gory detail, but the horror still shines through
Out of all 9-5 jobs out there, why this? What’s your motive?
I got disenchanted by being a lawyer and I had wanted to be an author since childhood. The lawyering put me in a strong enough financial position that I could quit to do a uni course for a couple of years. My plan was to become a best-selling novelist, but my first chick-lit novel was nothing special. However, during the course, I found I did really well at journalism and was soon making a living as a freelance journo before I finished the course. My first major feature was on the Silk Road drugs market, which I had discovered thanks to a friend who was using it. Once I got in there I became fascinated by everything about it and started contacting the owner, users, vendors etc asking for stories (I was upfront about who I was). I began the first serious dark web blog - allthingsvice.com - and also became the go-to freelancer for Australian dark web stories. Then I pitched my first book and got a healthy advance for it.
I like working for myself, working from home and delving into things. Right now I have my dream job (though it wouldn't hurt to pay a bit more. I'm certainly not making anywhere near what I used to make lawyering, but I make enough to get by and I live pretty simply)
Did you ever do any writing on Brian Farrell and his role in Silk Road 2.0? I was Brian's cellmate for all of 2017 at Sheridan Federal Prison and heard all of his crazy stories. Was just curious as to the validity of them all.
DoctorClu! I did write briefly about him in Silk Road, but it wasn't all positive. I remember being frustrated by the shitshow that was Silk Road 2.0 in the beginning, right after SR1 shut and when DPR2 took off and Defcon got all dramatic. It settled down after a bit and lasted a year, when it was revealed THEY HAD A FUCKING UNDERCOVER HOMELAND SECURITY OFFICER ON STAFF THE WHOLE TIME. But yeah, anyhow, they are probably true. I'd love to hear them :)
Was there ever something on the dark web that made you surprised ( in a good way) and smile ?
So many things. Back in the day of the original Silk Road, I became obsessed with the forums, the people behind it, the intelligent discourse about the War on Drugs and philosophy. I found it amusing that drug dealers ran sales and giveaways. There were book clubs and movie clubs.
One of the most important people from that era was Dr Fernando Cauevilla, who became a member of Silk Road as "DoctorX". He was a real doctor who provided genuine, free, non-judgmental advice about drug use to the members of the site. It was quite an amazing time.
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Did Ulbricht get taken down the way we were told in the news? What happened to all the Bitcoins?
His arrest went down the way we were told in the news. How they located the server has never been disclosed (other than a fanciful explanation that NOBODY could believe). This explanation may be tested if Variety Jones runs a Fourth Amendment argument at his trial
The bitcoin in the wallet on Ross' computer was auctioned off by the Feds. He may have other bitcoin wallets stashed somewhere but nobody knows
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Book/movie clubs on the silk road?
Yeah, they would set reading and then everyone would come back and discuss the book, or they would have a time when everyone watched the same movie at the same time and chatted about it in real time
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Haha that's amazing! I don't suppose you remember any of the books in question?
They used to be a lot of philosophy books, especially on agorism. A Lodging of Wayfaring Men was one of the books. I remember V for Vendetta on a movie night
You don't seem to be pushing your most recent project and you're actually answering all the questions people ask, so I've got ask...are you some sort of government plant meant to destabilize reddit? This isn't how AMAs are supposed to work. You come in, you half ass a few questions, hawk whatever you're here to hawk, and then leave after 20 minutes. That's how it's done.
lol I'm a genuine redditor from way back, and I love talking about the stuff I do. I did find that after I answered a question in an AskReddit thread a while back that blew up, the sales followed. But that was organic and I don't think you can force it to happen - Reddit can spot that a mile awy
What are some of the best things about the dark web? And can anyone get on it? Things you can buy that you can’t buy normally online?
I really enjoy some of the forums, especially the psychonaut forums where people who like to trip on psychedelics get together and talk drugs and philosophy. There's a real "be kind to one another" vibe.
Getting on the dark web is easy, but not getting scammed when buying things takes a lot of homework. Yes, you can buy most things, but the most popular things are drugs and digital goods, i.e. things that depend on repeat custom and are easily transferable from seller to buyer
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You're doing the Good Work my man. I'd give you one of those awards if i knew how
What would you define the word "Safe" when it come to the internet (both www and dark web) world and are there any tips that I should follow to keep myself safe?
It really depends on what YOU mean by safe. Tor, which is the darknet that provides access to the dark web will keep you safe from prying eyes and surveillance.
If you mean keep your information safe, the old-fashioned advice is to never reuse your password and to enable 2-Factor authentication wherever you can. Your information is quite likely somewhere on the dark web thanks to high-profile hacks of major organizations, but provided you don't re-use usernames and passwords, you really don't have to worry too much about it.
If you mean keeping yourself and/or any kid safe from predators, the only thing is to ensure you are educated about the approaches and methods they use.
Has Covid affected the Dark Web in any real way? Also I just read through all of the post comments, what incredible story’s. I would totally buy a book about the Silk Road or Yaru!
re covid on the dark web, here's some notes I made for an interview I did recently:
* when Trump first hyped hydroxychloroquine as a potential miracle cure for COVID-19, drug dealers on the dark web seized on the claim.
* Listings quickly popped up on the most popular darknet markets
* A vendor on Whitehouse Market sells 100 Pills for $90, calling it a “Miracle Drug For Coronavirus” and suggesting buyers purchase in bulk to sell at a mark-up locally.
* Another makes the dubious claim “This drug will help people to beat Corona Virus” There are 11 listings on Empire Market currently, although more than half are from the one seller, who is a well-known and trusted vendor on the site.
* There were also people claiming to be selling infected blood or plasma of recovered COVID victims
* The infected blood stuff is just bullshit IMO Just because something is listed doesn’t mean it is genuinely for sale
* There's been some claims to be selling vaccines
* At the beginning there were also loads of listings for PPE
* some just used it as a marketing tactic - “fight off the virus with edible cannabis” or “relax with Xanax” and others as an excuse to raise their prices
* However, sales are low compared to sales of other drugs on the site, so it is difficult to say whether it’s something that will really catch on
* It didn’t take long for complaints to come in and market owners to clamp down on anything claiming to be a miracle cure or vaccine
* users were discouraging other users from profiting off the pandemic and requested markets provide health and safety information
* All the major markets forbid anything being sold as a cure for COVID. They flagged keywords and vendors would be told to take any listings down. They also put out PSAs telling people not to buy
* Monopoly: threatened to ban and.. “You are about to ingest drugs from a stranger on the internet - under no circumstances should you trust any vendor that is using COVID-19 as a marketing tool to peddle already questionable goods”
* It was a business decision. They don’t want anything that will attract attention or that might cause desperate people who wouldn’t normally use the DNMs to find their way there
* The idea behind DNMs generally is educated and responsible drug use. They really don’t want people dying - bad publicity and no repeat custom
* However the dark web is rife with scammers and people willing to prey on the desperate so there are still scams out there
* The only way I could ever see it becoming a thing is if there is a well-known potential cure/vaccine that is not being made widely available and could plausibly find its way onto the black market
Hi Eileen :) My question is about how you construct your Casefile episodes - I assume there is an extensive amount of outlining but do you write the final draft like a script specifically thinking about his voice? And about how long are they as far as - for example - does one hour equal 50-60 pages? Thank you.
I initially write them as if I'm writing an article or book, but then go back and edit them to be read out and yes, when I do that, I do have his voice in my head lol. One episode is usually around 12,000 words. It then goes to another editor who edits the episode to be even more "casefileaa' before it finally goes to Casey
Have you been exposed to things in your investigations that have made you second-guess what you do? If so, what has made you keep going back?
i've definitely had days where I question everything, but to be honest, I don't really hang around the horrible really dark places much. I did delve into the child predator forums when I was writing The Darkest Web, but I don't make it a habit to go there. The psychonauts are much more friendly
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To continue with that- have you clicked images, links that make you a suspect in certain scenarios?
Oh absolutely. Sometimes I go to a "Fresh Onion" site, which is a site that crawls all the .onion addresses (dark web URLs end in .onion rather than .com, org etc) and alerts you to any new ones. Sometimes they don't have any description, so you take a big risk clicking on any of those. The most dangerous button on the dark web is the "Random Onion" button, so I avoid that.
I'm pretty careful about what I click, but the moment something looks questionable I nope the fuck right out of there
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Have you ever felt that you may be a suspect whether it be ok a drug site, a pedo site, etc. Have you ever been contacted by someone regarding your surfing habits?
Well my actual surfing habits are protected by Tor, which means they are hidden from prying eyes, so no I haven't been contacted about them. I am very open on the dark web about who I am and what I'm doing there - I use the name OzFreelancer on all of the markets and forums. I don't go to the sites that host child abuse images - you can't un-see that shit and I don't need it in my head.
As noted in another reply, I was contacted by Homeland Security on one of my visits to the US and taken for a "friendly" lunch.
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Psychonauts are more friendly than most people. Something about regular mind altering experiences makes you want to be less of a cunt.
Yeah, I call The Majestic Garden a little corner of sunshine and rainbows on the dark web :)
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More about The Majestic Garden please? What is grown there?
It's a place where people talk about and source psychedelics - most notably LSD, the 2C family, DMT and MDMA. Talk about and sourcing harder drugs is forbidden. In fact the admins snuck in an autocorrect so that any time someone wrote the word "cocaine" it would post as "a raging hardon" :D
Do you fear that seeing all this stuff might turn you emotionally blunt? I'm not watching any of this stuff on purpose (even the clearnet stuff), because I fear that the more you see of it, the more normal it gets, and ultimately, the more it will fuck you up. To quote the movie 8mm... "If you dance with the devil, the devil don't change. The devil changes you."
No, I can't even watch "3 Guys 1 Hammer" in its entirety, let alone look at the really dark materials on the dark web. When I was researching The Darkest Web, going into the predator forums did the opposite of making me blunt. It was the shortest section of the book but took the longest to write because it was so emotionally draining
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I have to ask, what is "3 Guys 1 Hammer"?
It's a video of two teenagers murdering an innocent man with a hammer that went viral on the gore sites of the regular internet. It's truly horrible.
The teens killed over 20 people. I wrote about them in my book Psycho.com (excuse the plug)
I heard somewhere that you foster dogs. Is that something you do to counter all the terrible humans you encounter in your research - everyone knows how dogs are better than people. How many dogs have you fostered and which one was your favourite?
After my dog died I knew I didn't want to have another dog as I wanted to travel more. So I thought fostering dogs would be the answer as you give them love for a few weeks and then they go to their forever home. My first foster, Roy, was a big fat failure and now he lives here and sleeps in our bed and is the most spoiled dog alive
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Did you then just decide to quit travelling? I don't know anything about Roy, but I already think I love him.
Nah, he has family he can stay with when I go away, but any major travelling has been thwarted by COVID for now anyway. I'm in a hard lockdown city.
And I'm sure Roy would love you too, u/suckmyhugedong
Given how much you know about the dark web, what kind of crazy awful nightmares have you had? This could be a really good one. Thank you
Probably the worst thing was delving into the forums where child predators gathered. I never looked at any videos or photos, but just seeing their discussions sickened me. The one thing that keeps coming back to me came out of the sentencing hearing that I attended of Lux, owner of Hurt2theCore, considered the most heinous website in history. In court they read out a conversation between him and an abuser who made videos of torture of the mute disabled child in his care. They were joking "at least she won't be able to tell anyone" . the abuser wasn't caught, at least by that stage
As an indie author, how have you sourced freelancers? Did you seek out those that have specific expertise or did you work with editors from your time as a traditionally published author?
I learned to do everything myself before I started outsourcing.
I work with a professional editor who happens to be a friend of mine from back when we did a writing course together. I've been doing my own covers, but now that I have some royalties coming in, I've engaged a professional cover artist from Reedsy to develop a brand and more professional-looking covers for me. It is the hardest thing to find people you really want to work with and who are in budget.
I still haven't got the hang of email lists, newsletters or a website - they are all in a total mess at the moment and I'd love to find someone who can do them, but again it is that problem of finding the right person who is within budget
is it true that most of the internet is in the "dark web"? if so about how much percent is it?
By far the biggest myth is that it 10x larger than the Internet. I mean, this should be common sense anyway, but it gets propagated by tabloid media all the time. It stems a lot from people using the terms "deep web" and "dark web" interchangably when they are different things.
The statement that 90% (or thereabouts) of the internet is hidden is true, and it is called the deep web (not the dark web). The 90% that is hidden is all those pages you won’t get to using google or any other search engines. There’s nothing scary about that – in fact it works in your favour.
The easiest example is your bank. The bank’s major page is available to anyone who searches the web (part of the 10%, also known as the “clearweb”). But once you log in, all those pages you can access that contain your personal details? Not searchable on google. Each one of those pages is part of the 90% of the deep web. Business and government intranets also make up part of the deep web. Honestly, it’s nothing to worry about.
The dark web – the hidden services available through Tor and other anonymising programs – makes up a tiny fraction of the deep web. A really, really tiny fraction. It is infinitely smaller than the clearweb.
Do you think human trafficking happens on the dark web? Last year (I think) there was a really bizarre story here in the UK about a model who was supposedly kidnapped to order, drugged and transported overseas by a group called "Black Death". The official story is that BD doesn't exist, and the kidnapper was a fantasist. Is it likely that humans are bought and sold into slavery over the dark web?
There are no slick websites with auctions for slaves on the dark web, but I have no doubt that human traffickers use dark web encryption to communicate.
(here comes the second plug for the thread) - I wrote about the kidnap of Chloe Ayling and the Black Death Group in Murder on the Dark Web
What ever happened to the plural of mongoose storyline? it seems like after he was arrested in the united states, his case just fizzled away. did you ever find out any more information about yuri after he cancelled the interview with a news program? what happened with peter scully's case? i read that there was a fire where a lot of evidence against him was held and it all went up in smoke. are there any character and/or personality storylines that you feel haven't been told or are still a complete mystery? eg. tony76
1. He is still in the MCC in NY and awaiting trial. It has taken a long time because he had terrabytes of information to go through and things would have slowed down due to covid. I understand he is running the Fouth Amendment argument that Ulbricht probably should have run in the first place
2. I last heard from Yura just a few weeks ago. He is still scamming. There are some more programs in the works about him
3. Yes there was a very convenient fire, but he still got sentenced to life and i hope he rots in hell
4. I am madly curious to know what is happening with the extradition of James Ellingson, aka “MarijuanaIsMyMuse”, aka "redandwhite", MAYBE aka Tony76. I would LOVE to know that full story!
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Wow, this shit is a blast from the past. I used to love following the darknetmarket drama. Did you write about PoM and tony76 in one of your books? Ever since reddit shut down /darknetmarket I've been out of the loop.
I was in touch with PoM/Mongoose when he went on a posting rampage on MyPlanetGanja, then visited him in Bangkok prison several times. Wrote all about it :)
This may have been answered by a previous post pertaining to native language barriers to specific sites on the dark web, but in your investigations, did you come across content/pages/forums from warzones? Middle East, Burma, Afghanistan, etc? If yes, what was the most memorable bit?
There are loads of sites in foreign languages, but it is too difficult for me (a one-language numpty) to attempt to translate through AI, and it is not worth hiring a translator when they could just turn out to be Cat Facts
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